Thursday, July 10, 2014

Searching for Romeo

When I spotted the summary of a story focusing on Rosaline I thought this must be an update on the upcoming movie about Romeo's "ex-girlfriend".

Nope! "Searching for Romeo" is a new stage musical that tells....well, basically the exact same story. Why does everybody go for Rosaline? She's not even technically a character, she's a name. It's easy to say you're walking in Tom Stoppard's shoes, but at least Shakespeare gave him some Rosencranz and Guildenstern to work with. Stoppard didn't, for example, invent a new character for Paris' mother.  (Yes, Searching for Romeo offers us Paris' mother.)

For some reason the article decides to pull in Ophelia, which I thought was interesting.  Spinning off a play about Ophelia is more in the Stoppard vein, I'd say.  (Personally I even tried my hand at writing such a play back in college.  The premise was that Ophelia was in on Hamlet's feigned madness, and they were both having a good joke at the expense of their respective parents, until Hamlet really does lose his mind.)

What I don't understand is the author's summary of Ophelia's existence:

Curiosity has long surrounded Hamlet's love Ophelia, who dies after speaking about 170 lines in a play with more than 3,800. 
"She just seems to go mad out of nowhere," said Emily C.A. Snyder, who directed a production of "Hamlet" in which she give Ophelia more time onstage to create a stronger connection with the audience.
Ms. Snyder missed the part where Hamlet went crazy, said he never loved her, killed her father, got banished to England.  Out of nowhere? Really?

Let's have less invention of Rosaline and other characters, and more exploration into Ophelia's character. I'm all for that idea.


JM said...

"She just seems to go mad out of nowhere," said Emily C.A. Snyder, who directed a production of "Hamlet"...blah blah.

Apparently Shakespeare needs instruction,from those who know better, on how to structure his plays.

If the actor playing Ophelia is any good, more stage time in a standard production is not only distracting and superfluous, but smacks of a fair amount of hubris on the part of the director. I take it this was not an "adaptation" Ms. Snyder was directing. And, as you point out, it reveals a stunning lack of investigation of the script and even more stunning lack of imagination imo.
Amazing how a close reading of the text would aid those who seek to "correct" that which they haven't had the courtesy to take note of in the first place.

The name of the play in question is "The Tragedie of HAMLET, Prince of Denmarke.

Jeremy Davis said...

Although not as blatant as in the example you gave, I recently read a post from an actress who played Ophelia in a Hamlet production I attended over the weekend who expressed a similar idea. She wrote about her first week of rehearsal, in which she said, “She is a confusing character who isn’t really in the play that much, doesn’t say that much, and has a very quick spiral into madness.”

I should say that the actress in question played the part very well and I enjoyed the show! Still, I always thought her descent into madness made perfect sense without embellishment. But then, I've never approached the play from an actor's point of view.